​Stacy Epperson
Education Specialist
Aquatic Resource Education Dept
Chesapeake and Coastal Service
MD Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410-260-8775​

The Maryland Envirothon Aquatic Ecololgy Resource Site

Maryland Envirothon logo Aquatics logo

Updated January 2016

This is the study guide for advisors and students participating in the Maryland State Envirothon competition. The four topic areas and listed objectives are similar to the Envirothon curriculum guidelines but note that changes have been made to reflect Maryland’s main topics for 2016. Fifth topic questions are sprinkled throughout the test; due to the transient nature of the 5th topic, specific objectives have not been defined. Questions for the test were generated from each resource. At the least, students will be responsible for the information related to the specific objectives listed below. In the case of web page links, only the opening page of the link was used for question generation unless marked otherwise. With PDF documents, students should study the complete document, unless specific pages are listed. Please feel free to contact Stacy Epperson at if you have any questions.

2016 Aquatic Training Power Point

Slides with references are particularly important though the presentation is not entirely inclusive. It will be updated next year when the test is finalized. Please note the date on the first slide to ensure you are using the most current one. The power point will change every year as topics rotate. Lastly, there will be an expert to train on crayfish ID at the state competition.

I. Abiotic Factors

  1. Know the processes and phases for each part of the water cycle and understand the water cycle’s role in soil nutrient erosion, and climatic influences.
  2. Understand the concept and components of a watershed and be able to identify stream orders and watershed boundaries. Know the feature of a healthy watershed and an unhealthy watershed. Be familiar with stream flow dynamics.
  3. Understand why aquatic organisms and water quality is affected by the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the water; this includes changes caused by climate change such as ocean acidification.

II. Biotic Factors

  1. Understand the dependence of all organisms on one another (food web) and how energy and matter flow within an aquatic ecosystem. This includes oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon.
  2. Identify common, rare, threatened, and endangered aquatic species as well as Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) through the use of a key.
  3. Know how to use a dichotomous key to identify animals.
  4. Be familiar with aquatic plants and animals visually and descriptively.

III. Aquatic Environments

  1. Identify aquatic and wetland environments based on their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.
  2. Know characteristics of different types of aquifers, and understand historical trends and threats to groundwater quantity and quality.
  3. Know Maryland’s physiological provinces.
  4. Understand the different kinds of flooding and how flooding benefits aquatic environment.
  5. Understand the value and effects of different cycles of flooding.

IV. Water Protection and Conservation

  1. Interpret major provincial and/or federal laws and methods used to protect water quality (surface and ground water)
  2. Be familiar with the federal, state, and county agencies that provide oversight of water resources.
  3. North American water rights: history, kinds, controversy.
  4. Water use in the U.S.; water conservation plans; citizen conservation

V. Fifth Topic: Invasive Species - A Challenge To the Environment, Economy and Society

VI. Resources:

Healthy Watershed Overview

Learn About Watersheds (home page only)

Georgia Adopt a Stream Manual on Biological and Chemical Stream Monitoring, pg. 22-28 only. Chemical tests

Maryland Streams: Take a Closer Look

USGS, Water Science for Schools - Water-Cycle Summary

Intro to an Ecosystem

*Macroinvertebrate Dichotomous Key section 7.

*Maryland Freshwater Fish Dichotomous Key

*Maryland Crayfish Dichotomous Key

EPA’s Watershed Academy: Sustaining Healthy Freshwater Ecosystems
Pages 1-2; Table 1; pages 12, 14-15 “Balancing Human Use and Needs of Freshwater Ecosystems”.

Salt Water Intrusion of Coastal Aquifers

Water Rights Definition: Online Legal Dictionary

Guidance for Developing & Implementing a Water Conservation Plan

Water Use in U.S. 2010

Water Conservation Fact Sheet

Maryland Invasive Species of Concern

Maryland DNR Invasives
Study Aquatic Fact Sheets

Invasive Description

National Invasive Species Information Center, USDA

EPA Chesapeake Bay TMDL

* Provided at State Test

VII. Other Resources (good for background or general knowledge)

In addition to the resources listed above, you can find useful information below about various aquatic topics. Keep in mind that test questions do not come directly from these sources.

Chesapeake Bay - Official Chesapeake Bay Program Website

U.S. Drought Monitor (USDA)

EPA Water Conservation Plan Guidelines

Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health

VIII. Teacher Resources

Project WET/Healthy Water, Healthy People/Discover a Watershed
For information on these materials, please contact Cindy Etgen at or visit The Aquatics Resource Education website

Eyes on the Bay

WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands
Please contact Environmental Concern at or visit: